Pixlr, The Power of the Image, and News Construction
Pixlr is a free web-based and mobile app for editing photos. It includes overlays, filters, and many more easy-to-use tools, like a simpler version of Photoshop. Flickr is an online photo management and sharing application. You will need to create a Flickr account for this assignment.
First, get some practice using the various tools available in Pixlr.
- Create a Flickr account: Go to flickr.com and “Sign Up”. Follow the instructions to create an account.
- Select an appropriate image from Flickr creative commons: http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons. After you find the image you want, click on the arrow on the bottom right corner (the third icon from the right: ) and select “View all sizes”
- Select one of the “Large”-sized versions of the photo
- Open the image in Pixlr. Go to pixlr.com, scroll down to the “PIXLR Editor” option, and click on “Launch Web App”
- Option 1 (preferred): right-click and copy the image URL. In Pixlr, choose “Open image from URL” and paste the link.
- Option 2: download image and open in Pixlr using “Open image from computer.”
- ZOOM: Adjust your view of the image by changing the number in the bottom left corner. This will wt change the image size. 100% is the actual size of the image.
- CROP: Use the “Crop Tool” (top left) to crop the image to highlight a certain focal point or adjust the size.
- RESIZE: Use “Image >> Image Size” to change the size of the image to a width of 600 pixels. Remember: always make an image smaller, not larger (it will pixelate).
- ADJUST BRIGHTNESS: Adjust the brightness of your image by using “Adjustment >> Auto Levels.” If you are not happy with the results, undo and use any of the manual options you have.
- SHARPEN: When you make an image smaller, it usually becomes blurred. Use the “Filter >> Sharpen” menu to sharpen your image.
- UNDO/HISTORY: To Undo one of more actions use the ” History” palette on the right
- TEXT and MOVE: Use the Type Tool (A) to add a caption to the image. Make sure the caption text has enough contrast with the background, and it’s legible.
- MOVE: When you added text, the program creates a new “layer”. Use the “Move” tool to move the text to wherever you want.
- INCREASE CANVAS SIZE:
- Image >> Canvas Size
- Increase the width by 50 pixels and the Height by 50 pixels.
- Click on the middle square.
- Add a second caption (text) in the bottom white strip of space.
- FLATTEN: Because you now have more than one layer in the image, you need to “flatten” all layers before exporting the image for use in a browser or app.
- Choose from the menu: Layer >> Flatten Image.
- SAVE: Save your image to your computer: File >> Save. Select “JPEG (Good for most photos)”
Practice using some of the other tools: Each step below is associated with a specific image. All the images are available from the following link, or you can download each one separately below:
- STRAIGHTEN: use this image
- Edit >> Free transform >> put your mouse outside one of the image’s corners and rotate your image to make the horizon leveled.
- Crop to take out the empty space created by your rotation.
- RED EYE TOOL: use this image
- Use the Red Eye Tool to correct the red eyes of the girl in the photo.
- Position the mouse on the center of the red eye and click.
- If the black was too big or too small, Undo and then adjust the “Tolerance” in the Tool Options, and then reapply it.
- BLUR TOOL: use this image
- Use the Blur tool to hide the wrinkles on the man’s forehead.
- Change the brush “Strength” in the Tool Options to get a better-quality image.
- SHARPEN TOOL: use this image
- Use the sharpen tool to make the thorns looks more ominous.
- Work slowly and carefully with sharpen tools.
- DODGE TOOL: use this image
- Run the dodge tool in the dark spots (behind the man’s head, mainly) and see what happens.
- Try to get an even amount of light throughout the image, and not spots of light and dark. Play with the options: select “Shadows” for dark areas, change the exposure level, etc.
- SPONGE TOOL: use this image
- First: Desaturate the bright colors of the balls, which distract from the girl. Use the Marquee tool or the Lasso tool to draw around the balls. Then, in the options bar, select “Adjustment” >> “Hue and Saturation” and set the strength to -35.
- Second: Saturate the face and attire of the girl to draw attention to her. Use the Marquee tool or the Lasso tool to draw around the girl’s face and body. Then, in the options bar, select “Adjustment” >> “Hue and Saturation” and set the strength to 25.
- SPOT HEAL TOOL: use this image
- Use the Spot healing brush to clear scratches from the photo. Simply click on the area you want to “clean.” Keep your brush size small.
- BLOAT AND PINCH TOOLS: use same image as above
- Use these tools as you wish. Make the nose smaller, the lips larger. Go wild!
- ERASER TOOL: use this image
- Choose the “Eraser” tool and erase parts of the image
- Don’t forget to change the options of the eraser
- BUCKET TOOL: use same image as above
- Use the paint bucket to fill the color of a certain space.
- VARIOUS SELECTION TOOLS: use same image as above
- Use the Marquee tool, the Magic Wand, or the Lasso Tool, to tool to clean up the space around the photographer in the image. Then use the bucket tool to fill up that space with color to change the mood of the picture (Try red, blue, green…). You can get another image and underlay it behind the photographer to change the context.
Now that you have gotten familiar with most of the photo manipulation tools available in Pixlr, it’s time to put those skills to work, to show how easy it is to create and spread misinformation or “fake news”.
- Choose a news magazine cover. You can choose a back or current issue of any Western news magazine (Newsweek, TIME, The Economist, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, The Nation, etc…) or any Arabic news magazine.
- Find a digital version of the magazine cover; the higher quality/resolution, the better!
Think of the following about the news magazine cover you chose:
- What is the topic/story? Who/what is being portrayed?
- What is the context of the image (is it evident or implied)?
- What about the headline/photo caption: do they change or influence the meaning of the image?
- Ask yourself: What are the underlying values, ideologies, messages and stereotypes embedded in this image?
- Reflect on what the image “means” to you… and consider how others might interpret the photograph differently.
- Offer an alternative idea for the image. One that you think would better reflect the story by using Pixlr to edit the image.
- Search for the substitute image you want to include in the new cover (it has to be related to the same story). You can scan the new image from inside the magazine or another publication or “borrow” it from the web (first, search flickr.com, then Google images and other places; make sure you cite everything, including the original cover and pick high quality images). You may also use your phone or camera to take a photo, if you have the skills and equipment.
- Clean up the original image by erasing the original photo and headline. Do not construct the cover from scratch. It takes skills and patience to clean up the original image.
- Copy/paste the substitute image and resize/clean it to fit in your new cover. You may need several attempts here to create a clean image. You may also paste several images, not only one. Make sure each image is pasted into a new “layer.”
- Insert your new headline and subheads and any other text.
- Feel free to experiment and add filters, play with exposure, brightness…
- Upload all three (or more) of your photos to Flickr: original cover, substitute image(s), and alternative cover. MAKE SURE YOU PROPERLY REFERENCE THE ORIGINAL IMAGE AND THE IMAGES YOU USED IN THE NEW COVER, and write a short caption (max 250 words) explaining the images and their contexts and the effect of the difference in image construction. Check this guide to citing photographs in APA format: http://www.easybib.com/guides/citation-guides/apa-format/how-to-cite-a-photo-digital-image-apa/
- Your generated images should have a headline and a subhead and the logo of the magazine (make sure it looks as close as possible to the magazine cover template). You can add other images from other stories on your cover, but you need to have the original story represented too.
- Remember to put each image in a separate “layer” and to merge (flatten: Layers >> Flatten Layers) all the layers at the end before you convert the image to a JPG or GIFF or PNG or other format optimal for emailing/web posting (You’ll need to figure out yourself which is the best format!).
- Add your Flickr feed to your WordPress blog by adding the Flickr Widget. Follow the instructions on how to do so here. After you do that, you will need to add “/?details=1” to the end of the photostream URL so that the thumbnail images will show in the widget. Make sure you have made your Flickr photostream “public”, otherwise people will not be able to see your work.
Check these students’ examples to get an idea of what you should be aiming for with the final product:
Example 1: https://www.flickr.com/photos/143754137@N08
Example 2: https://www.flickr.com/photos/148287522@N05